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How to Work a Graduate School Fair

Graduate School Fairs present excellent opportunities to explore and learn about graduate schools and receive advice from recruiting professionals.

What Students Should Expect

When you attend grad school fairs be well prepared, professional, interactive, and inquisitive. Come mentally and emotionally ready to take the best and worst possible results, which will keep you in a realistic, but optimistic, state of mind. Graduate school fairs vary: different layouts, atmospheres, and expectations. Some graduate school fairs are busier than others.

What to Do Before

If you want to go to a successful and worthwhile fair, it is important for you to be prepared. This will also be a benefit to the recruiters. Here are some points to consider that will help you prepare:

  • Research the fair, recruiters, expected participants, and participation requirements. If you are more informed, then your experience might be more productive. Check Handshake for a list of the recruiters participating in the fair.
  • Create a list of the graduate schools that interest you the most. Research them extensively, but remain open to other schools that you might find.
  • Draw up a “Graduate School Action Plan” with objectives you plan and want to fulfill. When you write down your goals you are more likely to accomplish them.
  • Think of questions to ask and answer. Prepare a list of specific questions for each graduate school that you want to be addressed. The recruiters might have questions for you as well; therefore, rehearse your responses to potential questions as much as is needed for you to be confidently ready:
    - Why are you interested in getting a graduate degree?
    - Why are you interested in our school?
    - Do you plan to begin right after you complete Spelman College?
    - What are your long-term career goals, and how will this degree help you achieve your goals?
  • Compose and rehearse a 30-60 second “elevator pitch” that includes your name, goals, education, experiences, strengths, and interests. Compliment your pitch with a firm handshake and a curriculum vitae or a resume.
  • Draft between 10-25 highly-developed curriculum vitae or resumes. Have your CV’s and/or resumes extensively critiqued by the Office of Career Planning and Development. Make sure they have no errors and are well written. Remember what you have written on your CV or resume in case recruiters ask questions about either of them.
  • Be early to the fair! The graduate school representatives will tire throughout the day. If you want a recruiter to remember you, arrive 10 or 15 minutes before the fair begins and be prepared for making an enduring first impression!
  • Wear professional attire! Make certain that you are well-groomed and dressed in business attire.

What to Do During

Your time at a graduate school fair can be successful if you are professional, confident, optimistic, and persistent. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Introduce yourself. Telling the recruiters your name is of the utmost importance for your introduction. Enthusiasm and sincerity can endear you to recruiters!
  • Manage your time. Be certain that you are devoting enough time to meeting with your target schools so that you effectively market yourself.
  • Ask productive, relevant and individualized questions. Be considerate of the recruiter’s energy and time, but be curious to demonstrate that you have researched the school and that you are concerned with your future.
  • Obtain the recruiter’s information. Make certain that you know the recruiter’s name, business card, literature, and the next step of communication. Remember to thank the recruiter by name for taking the time to speak with you and for visiting Spelman College.

At the Fair, DON’T

  • Be too timid
  • Monopolize the representative’s time
  • Ask questions just to ask questions
  • Leave your resume without having a conversation
  • Take “freebies” without having a conversation
  • Eavesdrop on conversations between other candidates and representatives (unless you are invited)

What to Do After

The follow up after a graduate school fair, in many instances, can give attendees the edge over their competition. Make sure you:

  • Send the recruiters with whom you spoke a thank-you email within one week. Sending a thank-you email helps the recruiter to remember you, reinforcing the professional relationship you two have founded.
  • Follow up with the recruiter’s requests, and be aligned with his or her wishes of the next communication step.
  • Schedule an appointment with the graduate school counselor, LaTonya O’Neal, to talk about your experience and your schools of interest.

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